On 21 November 2017 Gorwel undertook a seminar – lecture session on
1967 Sexual Offences Act – 50 years on Commemorating LGBT life since the Act and Celebrating British LGBT Writing, 1967-2017
Speakers included Andrew White – Stonewall Cymru’s Director with Lisa Power MBE acting as Rapporteur and Jo Bowers, Acting Dean of Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy giving the vote of thanks.
The main speaker was Dr Natasha Alden, Aberystwyth University
Dr Natasha Aiden examined the evolution of British LGBT writing in this commemorative event. She noted that in 1971, E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice was finally published. In 1914, when it was written, only private circulation was possible; a love story between two men would have incriminated its author. By the 1970s, homosexual acts between men had been decriminalised in England and Wales, beginning a journey towards public understanding and acceptance of gay men, lesbian and bisexual people, trans people, and those who identify as genderfluid, nonbinary or queer. Where previously writers and readers had looked for coded signs in the canonical literary tradition, from Plato to Shakespeare, Sappho to Woolf, now the possibility of an alternative or anti-tradition began to emerge, one which might be capacious enough to include a whole range of non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative narratives. From today’s vantage, Forster’s novel seems truly anachronistic, a vision of an altogether different time and different values.
This talk looked back over the last fifty years of British LGBTQ+ writing, and considered what kind of ‘tradition’ of writing had been established since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, as well as thinking about whether such ideas of tradition are helpful or constructive in charting the myriad experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the UK today. It considered key genres of writing – memoir, fiction, poetry, drama – and evaluated their role in representing, documenting and facilitating the multiplicity of non-hetero and non-cisnormative lives lived through the last half century. A complicated and fascinating picture emerged of a literature continually evolving in an effort to understand and track social and cultural change.